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Arizona softball: Alyssa Palomino tears ACL, will miss the NCAA Tournament

The Wildcats will be without their starting center fielder for the rest of the postseason

Alyssa Palomino walks to the Arizona dugout with a knee brace on
Jason Bartel

Arizona Wildcats center fielder Alyssa Palomino suffered a torn ACL and is out for the rest of the postseason, the UA announced Friday after the Wildcats run-ruled New Mexico State in their NCAA Tournament opener.

Palomino suffered the injury in practice this week and was wearing a heavy brace on her left leg during Arizona’s win over NMSU.

The redshirt freshman missed all of last season with a torn ACL, though this time it’s her left knee that is injured.

Palomino has been a key cog in the Wildcats’ success this season. She started in 55 games, batting .302/.408/.711 with 16 homers and 54 RBIs.

Last week, she was named to the All-Pac-12 Second Team and All-Pac-12 Freshman Team.

“Out but not down!” Palomino tweeted. “I'll start the party in the dugout! So unbelievably excited for my team. Let’s do the thing.”

Eva Watson started in Palomino’s place against NMSU and went 1 for 2 with a run scored while batting ninth. The senior has 64 career starts in four seasons in Tucson and hit a team-high .387 a season ago.

Mike Candrea said it’s “huge” to have an experienced player to turn to at this point in this season.

“Unfortunately you have to move on and luckily this team has someone that they can put into the lineup and fill that void,” he said. “If Eva can get on base for us then good things can happen because she’s so quick.”

Watson, a speedy slap hitter, has primarily been used as a pinch runner this season and is hitting .182 in 20 at-bats.

“The big thing with her right now is just getting her to calm down a little bit and slow things down and keep the ball on the ground,” Candrea said. “The ground is going to be her best friend, and if she does that and she gets on base, I think it’s a big plus.”

The Wildcats return to action Saturday when they host South Carolina in the winner’s bracket of the Tucson Regional. First pitch at Hillenbrand Stadium is set for 2 p.m. PT.

You can follow this author on Twitter at @RKelapire